Access and equality: It's NOT all about the numbers. An exploratory study of Asian Pacific American aspirations for academic careers

Ann E Tiao, University of Pennsylvania


Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) acquired the label of "model minority" in part due to media attention drawn to their overrepresentation in higher education and relatively high average household income levels. Some use this label to claim that APAs have reached parity with Whites. However, research shows that APA achievement, on some indicators, is below that of Whites and that APAs face much discrimination, even in higher education. APA faculty have low tenure rates and primarily hold non-tenure track positions, and APAs comprise fewer than two percent of administrators at colleges and universities nationwide. Given that the APA population in the U.S. is growing rapidly and APAs are going to college in increasingly greater numbers, it is important to understand why APA students are underrepresented among higher education leaders. This dissertation explores the following research question and sub-questions: How do campus experiences shape the career aspirations of Asian Pacific American students? What careers are APA undergraduates pursuing? Why do they select particular professions? How do they make career choices? What role do parents and family play in shaping career choices? Why don't APA students choose academic careers? Since little research examines the educational experiences and career aspirations of APAs, this dissertation utilized grounded theory, a qualitative research methodology suitable for emergent ideas and theory development. I purposefully chose 26 APA students from different ethnicities, backgrounds, and majors to participate in individual semi-structured interviews. These students attended Avery University, an elite four-year private university in the northeastern United States, were in their final year of an undergraduate program, and completed at least a high school education in the United States. Results showed that even though participating APA students faced some family pressure to pursue certain careers, students' college experiences also impacted their career aspirations. The majority of APA students had not considered a career in academe and few understood the nature and requirements of an academic job. The few students contemplating a future in academe had been encouraged by faculty to continue their education. Based on these findings, the study offers implications for higher education institutions, K-12 educators, and future research.

Subject Area

Higher education|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Tiao, Ann E, "Access and equality: It's NOT all about the numbers. An exploratory study of Asian Pacific American aspirations for academic careers" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3225557.